American TV giant ABC recently announced their plans to commission a US-based remake of British comedy classic ”˜Only Fools and Horses’.

For a programme which regularly amassed over twenty million viewers in Britain, it is somewhat surprising that Uncle Sam hasn’t tried to snatch the winning format before. Though many nations from the Netherlands to Slovenia have remade ”˜Only Fools and Horses’, no remake sinks quite as sourly as the thought of the imperialistic boot of US junk television stomping over Nelson Mandela House. Indeed, the ABC announcement feels achingly soon after last years sad passing of John Sullivan OBE; the genius who single-handedly wrote every episode of ”˜Only Fools and Horses’. The wealth of Dickensian style characters Sullivan sculpted, shady yet big hearted, is testament to his remarkable mastery of his craft. Like early Coronation Street, the inhabitants of Sullivan’s Peckham were in the gutter looking up at the stars, clinging to the hope that this time next year they’d be millionaires. There was heart to the wheeling and dealing and the nostalgia tinted Englishness of ”˜Only Fools’ was perfectly laced with charm, wit and emotion ”“ a staple of British viewing throughout the grim Thatcher years. Del Boy and Rodney as much a part of British cultural heritage as the Kinks, Michael Caine and ale; and the values of Only Fools won’t survive the wrath of boardroom plonkers.

Many point to the US version of Ricky Gervais masterpiece ”˜The Office’ as an example of a successful US translation, but the same charm and sensitivity that set Gervais’ Office apart from its Stateside counterpart is what will undoubtedly be lost in Only Fools’ trip across the Atlantic. Like ”˜the Office’, ”˜Only Fools and Horses’ wasn’t just gags, it was relationships and how people interact with one another through the best and worst of times. As John Sullivan put it himself, ”˜if more people followed the Trotters example, Britain might be a happier place’. Surely we endure enough American landfill dirges on E4 to be able to keep a British TV treasure to ourselves? American TV has a nasty habit of assuming the lowest possible intellect for its viewers and it’s hard to imagine that the good people of New York couldn’t understand what separates a pub from a coffee shop. Britain has had to suffer the ”˜Friends’-fuelled coffee-shop boom so maybe America would benefit from a few more Nag’s Heads anyway?

American comedy writer Dave Fulton’s comparison of ”˜plonker’ to ”˜wanker’ on BBC Breakfast just about sums up the crucial cultural differences that will smother all we know to be ”˜Only Fools and Horses’. And while an exasperated Bill Turnbull could competently apologise for this outburst, it won’t be quite as easy to right the inevitable wrongs of ABC when the needless remake is aired.

Personally, I think Del Boy’s film idea “There’s a Rhino Loose in the City” would be a much better bet”¦

7 COMMENTS

  1. This article is jingoistic rubbish and is as needless as a remake, what does it matter indeed? And what has imperialism got to do with junk television? We have enough junk TV of our own to slag off.

  2. I agree, David. “American TV has a nasty habit of assuming the lowest possible intellect for its viewers?” What, Seinfeld, The Wire, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry Sanders, Frasier, Twin Peaks and The Simpsons are all examples of dumbed down programmes in your world are they? No one would be complaining if Bollywood remade Only Fools And Horses, so why is it so terrible when America decides to do it? Prejudiced nonsense of the highest degree; LTW, hang your collective heads in shame!

  3. Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks that American TV has produced far more intelligent programming in the past ten years than Britain has in fifty. If it’s lowest common denominator “safe” comedy you want then look no further than the original OFAH.

  4. Just to clarify a few bones of contention about the article, I’m well aware and a huge fan of much of the superb body of work US TV has made over particularly the last two decades, and when it is imported onto British TV we pay it respect and don’t remake it.
    I wouldn’t have an issue with a non-English speaking nation remaking a programme like ‘Only Fools’ per se, but when we speak the same language as Americans I struggle to see why this is neccessary or in the interest of good television over money.
    American television networks such as HBO have, as we all know, greatly advanced the art of good TV, but other networks (particularly ABC who are the culprit in this case) have done nothing but degenerate it and send it all around the world.

  5. I completely agree with Fergal. Only Fools and Horses is a massive part of our heritage and it’s shocking to think the US have the audacity to remake something which is so original, as they will not be able to execute the humour in the same way it was done initially.

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